There are many things that are upsetting Children these days and one of the biggest issues is child molestation. Children are abused, molested and raped but most of the victims in reported cases are girls. But recently Mumbai is shaken with two incidences, a 16-year-old boy suffered a horrific tale of sexual abuse, he was subjected to repeated rape for over a year by 15 teens in his locality. The incident comes on the heels of another teenaged boy in Mumbai who was raped by four men. He recently died of multiple organ failure after trying to commit suicide by drinking rat poison. His friend, a 10 year old, is believed to have been a victim of the same crime, and had also died under treatment. These are just the reported incidences that have disturbed us. There are many such cases that go unreported due to various reasons.
We need to talk about boyhood sexual abuse and its aftermath for men can be difficult, even painful. But such interaction is absolutely needed. Lakhs of men are abused as children; continue to live with the devastating effects of shattered trust. The media has been of little help deepening the conversation about male sexual victimization. The recent coverage about the sexual abuse of boys has highlighted thwarting abuse, making sure sexual predators are sequestered from youthful prey, and “moving on.”
While the media has mostly neglected these boys and the men they become, at least those scandals brought boyhood abuse into the public discourse. We can talk about it now, and we must do so, no matter how difficult this conversation can be. It’s disturbing to think about what it means to a boy when someone he trusts, someone he knows and someone who was his friend or relative sexually abuses him. Abusers use their age or authority to satisfy their own needs without regard to those of their victims. Seemingly unbreakable bonds are broken when betrayal is introduced into these relationships. Subsequently, many sexually abused boys grow up distrustful, considering people dishonest, malicious, and unreliable. They often become anxious of emotional connection and isolate themselves. This may alternate with merging with loved ones so they hardly know where they end and others begin.
Confusing affection with abuse, desire with tenderness, sexually abused boys often become men who have difficulty distinguishing among sex, love, nurturance, affection and abuse. They may experience friendly social approaches as seductive and manipulative. On the other hand, they may not notice when exploitative demands are made on them – they’ve learned to see these as normal and acceptable.
Many believe sexually abused boys almost inevitably become sexually abusive men. But, while a significant proportion of male abusers were victims themselves, there’s evidence that relatively few sexually abused boys actually become abusers. Because of the myth, however, many men fear they’ll become abusive or worry that if they disclose their history, others will consider them predators.
Sexually abused boys are also troubled if they were aroused while being abused. Irreversibly, when the abuser is male (and even sometimes when she is female), many boys – whether straight or gay – develop fears and concerns about sexual harrassment. Conventional wisdom says sexual abuse turns boys gay, although there’s no persuasive evidence that premature sexual activity fundamentally changes sexual orientation. Nevertheless, a heterosexual boy is likely to doubt himself, wondering why a man chose him for having sex. A homosexual boy may feel rushed into considering himself gay, or may hate his homosexuality because he believes it was caused by his abuse. Whether boys are gays or straight, these manipulative introductions to sexuality can set lifetime patterns of exploitation and self-destructive behaviour.
Boys who grow up without coming to terms with their childhood abuse often struggle as men with addictions, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide as well as the inability to develop or maintain relationships. It is difficult for any child to report sexual abuse because they feel guilty, they may have received threats from the offender, they fear they won’t be believed, and they don’t want to cause family problems. But for male victims, there are additional barriers to disclosure. In our culture, boys are socialized not to be victims. Guys are expected still, to become mentally tough and not seek help.
The bottom line is that it is up to adults to protect young people and the need for further education for parents and educators in this arena remains a constant call for clarity and direction. While much has been done in prevention and education regarding child sexual abuse, unfortunately there is more to do. We can start with creating emotionally safe environments for males to disclose sexual abuse and let it be known to boys that this can happen to them too. Boys should be taught more realistic roles to emulate other than the classic tough guy.
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